By David Ingram
WASHINGTON Oct 10 A new South Carolina law that
generally requires voters to show photo identification does not
discriminate against racial minorities but cannot go into effect
until the start of next year, a federal court ruled on
The U.S. District Court three-judge panel said too little
time remains before the Nov. 6 general election for state
officials to implement the law this year. The decision was
Republican governors and state lawmakers across the country
have renewed the push for photo-identification requirements in
the past two years.
The requirements are necessary to deter fraud, they say,
although examples of in-person voter impersonation are rare.
Democrats argue the laws are intended to depress turnout among
groups that support them.
The U.S. Justice Department opposed the South Carolina law,
arguing it runs afoul of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a
landmark of the U.S. civil rights movement.
Under the law, certain jurisdictions with a history of
discriminatory election laws, such as South Carolina, must
submit proposed election changes to the Justice Department or to
a federal court for approval.
A separate three-judge panel in August blocked Texas' law.
But measures in states including Georgia and New Hampshire have
met with approval.
South Carolina's law contains enough safeguards to ensure it
will not be discriminatory, the latest ruling said.
For example, the state allows those with a non-photo voter
registration card to vote without a photo identification if they
state a reason for not having one, the judges said.
"South Carolina's new voter ID law is significantly more
friendly to voters without qualifying photo IDs than several
other contemporary state laws that have passed legal muster,"
wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The judges also concluded that South Carolina legislators
did not have a discriminatory purpose when they enacted the law,
another requirement under the Voting Rights Act.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the ruling
is a "major victory" for the state's election process.
"The fact remains, voter ID laws do not discriminate or
disenfranchise; they ensure integrity at the ballot box," he
said in a statement.
A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment.